500 Po Boys: Vaucresson’s Creole Cafe & Deli

Vance Vaucresson is the scion of a family whose Creole sausage-making roots extend all the way back to New Orleans 7th Ward in the 19th century.

Creole hot sausage po boy at Vaucresson Creole Cafe in New Orleans 7th Ward.

Vance Vaucresson’s grandfather, Robert Levinsky Vaucresson, was a French Polish Jew who married a French woman of color and established himself as a businessman in New Orleans in 1899. He went into business for himself at St Bernard Market (now Circle Foods) as a butcher back when entire carcasses of animals were brought in the back door before being carved into steaks, chops and roasts, and sold out the front.

Vaucresson’s Creole Cafe and Deli. 1800 St Bernard Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana

It was hard, backbreaking work but the business was successful and eventually moved into a stand-alone structure at 1950 St Bernard Avenue where it enjoyed a multi-year run before migrating further down St Bernard into the former Belfield’s Pharmacy on a plot of land known as ‘The Point’

This was the home of Vaucresson Meat Market, run by Robert Vaucresson and his daughter Mildred’s husband, a Bordenave.

Louisiana Weekly. September 1967.

When the elder Vaucresson passed away the business was left to his son, Robert Anthony (Sonny) Vaucresson. The entrepreneurial spirit led Mr Sonny and his friend Larry Borenstein (and investor Beansie Fauria) to open Vaucresson Cafe Creole in 1966 at 624 Bourbon Street, the present day Pat O’Brien’s. A then-unknown Orange Kellin played the restaurant for tips and Cannonball Adderley was a regular eater.

The opening did not come without controversy as Jim Crow laws were in abundance in the New Orleans of that era.

Chaurice with grits and eggs soon became the morning fuel for hundreds of tradesmen, dockhands, musicians, city workers, and tourists. Mr Sonny’s restaurant was a big success.

Larry Borenstein and Allan Jaffe.

Indeed, Jazz Fest would be founded by George Wein at Vaucresson Cafe Creole. A chance meeting between Wein and Preservation Hall luminaries Allen Jaffe and Larry Borenstein proved fateful and the three men conceived the now iconic festival at Mr. Sonny’s restaurant.

Wein soon inquired as to whether Vaucresson would be interested in vending food at the debut event which led to the 7th Ward sausage maker’s multi-decade run as the only original food business still operating at the massive music festival.

Mr and Mrs Sonny Vaucresson. Louisiana Weekly. March 1966.

And that first Jazz Fest? Vaucresson and his workers cooked hundreds of po boys, wrapped them in foil and trundled them a few blocks away to Congo Square where the outdoor portion of the event was held.

Vaucresson Cafe Creole shuttered in 1975 but the indomitable Mr Sonny gradually moved forward and in October of 1983 opened a new sausage factory at St Bernard and North Roman Street in the 7th Ward, the family’s historic home.

Schwegman’s was the dominant grocery chain in New Orleans at that time and soon enough the Vaucresson line of sausages was stacked deep in the coolers at all their local markets. Winn-Dixie soon followed.

Vance Vaucresson stands at his Creole Cafe and Deli. 1800 St Bernard Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana

Robert “Sonny” Vaucresson passed away in the Fall of 1998 and with his death the mantle of the business was passed on to son Vance who, 26 years later, is still at the helm of his family’s concern.

Mr Vaucresson is a potent force in the kitchen weaving tales of the history of the 7th Ward into his family’s narrative while simultaneously grinding great hunks of hog meat and stuffing them into natural casings.

A tale of Vaucresson at the debut Jazz Fest. Louisiana Weekly. May 1970.

Our conversation continues on the topic of Creole foodways of the 7th Ward, hoghead cheese and the importance of using every ounce of the noble pig in modern day butcheries and cafes.

The century-plus long history of po boys in New Orleans is a topic that Mr. Vaucresson is well-versed in.

I take a small bite of my sandwich so I can inspect the grind and mull over the flavors. It’s not everyday you get to experience a sausage with such rich lineage. The farce has been expertly seasoned and cooked leading to a fine po boy.

The link is tucked into a French loaf then garnished with bread and butter pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. I heft a bottle of table-bound Blue Plate mayonnaise and apply a good heavy drift to tie all the flavors together. This makes sure everything is properly stacked up.

It’s Alsace. It’s Creole. It’s 7th Ward. It’s a hot fire under a winter sun. It’s a family’s life wove into a food that’s specific to a tiny place in a big world.

It’s Vaucresson sausage.

Vaucresson’s Creole Cafe and Deli. 1800 St Bernard Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana

Vaucresson Creole Cafe
1800 St Bernard Ave
New Orleans, Louisiana

(855) 727-3653

Hours of operation
11am – 3pm
Tuesday – Saturday

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